In yesterday’s Guardian, writer D.J. Taylor takes Julian Maclaren-Ross‘s 1947 book Of Love and Hunger as the starting point for an examination of the author’s life and work – and the often deleterious effect they had on each other. It opens in the Café Royal, which we were discussing just the other day:
At some point in the late 1940s Julian Maclaren-Ross invited Anthony Powell and his wife, Lady Violet, to supper at the Café Royal. Startled by the comparative luxury of the venue – Maclaren-Ross was always keener on accepting hospitality than dishing it out – the Powells were reassured to find that their young protégé had recently come into a publisher’s advance. Late on in the proceedings the party was joined by Powell’s old friend John Heygate and his current girlfriend. The girlfriend, who was in a playful mood, amused herself by sending Heygate handwritten messages under the table. Maclaren-Ross, who had the knack of being able to read upside down, deduced that one of them referred to himself. It read: He is too esoteric.
What follows is probably the best summation you’ll find of the author, raconteur and babysitter manqué. It’s fair to say that Taylor has engaged at length with his subject; the protagonist of two of his novels – At the Chime of a City Clock from 2011 and this year’s Secondhand Daylight – shares numerous traits with Maclaren-Ross, even bearing the author’s birth name, James Ross.